That quote comes to mind every now and again when I think about technology and the way it's changing our lives.
I was born in 1972 into a house the interior of which defies rational description. The living room was carpeted in thick brown and black shag with a faux rock wall and, later on, lots of wicker and plaster of Paris heads. A 20" floor model television dominated the room--and if you yowwens wonder how such a tiny TV could possibly dominate a room, bear in mind that TVs used to be considerably bulkier in all dimensions than they are today. Especially in depth.
Anyway, I vividly recall my mother warning me not to sit too close to that 20" TV or I'd go blind.
Ever notice how many things caused blindness, back when we were kids? Running with scissors. Sitting too close to the TV. Reading under anything less than a ten-thousand-watt lightbulb. Playing with yourself.
I had some trouble with that last. The connection between neat feelings emanating from my groin and failing eyesight was somewhat tenuous. Like every other male kid, I heard the admonition and promised myself I'd stop as soon as I noticed any kind of deterioration in my vision.
My last couple of visits to the eye doctor showed a very slight improvement. I can't say for sure that it has anything to do with self-pollution, but hey, you never know, do you?
I keep digressing.
Okay, for the purposes of argument, let's stipulate that it's potentially dangerous to sit too close to a 20" television screen. I wonder what Mom would say if she could magically peer thirty years into the future and find her only begotten son sitting about 18 inches from a 22" monitor.
Related: does anybody actually watch television on television any more? On the Toronto Maple Leaf discussion boards I frequent, the biggest concern most people have seems to be where to find an online stream of the game. People are up in arms because American TV shows aren't available online in Canada. Hello? The average house these days has what, eight and a half TVs in it? What with PVRs and such--not to mention comfy couches--why watch television online?
Not to mention on a freakin iPod. Hey, Mom, is it okay to be within a foot of a three inch screen?
No, son, it isn't. How can you possibly pay attention to the world around you with your eyes riveted on that tiny thing? You can't. Somebody could pepper-spray you and you wouldn't even notice until you WENT BLIND!
We've all gone blind, you know. How else to explain a world where, at least up until recently, debt was seen as a good and necessary thing?
I have a friend in California who is exceptionally prudent financially: the embodiment of 'take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves'. When he first moved there, he was absolutely flabbergasted to discover he needed a credit card to be allowed to buy things in many places...even if he intended to buy those things with cash.
Ken, he told me a couple of months back, people down here don't get it. I went out for lunch yesterday--little Chinese place, $5 lunch special--and everybody, I mean EVERYBODY, was paying with their CREDIT CARD!
It was only four years ago that our store started accepting Visa and Mastercard, and the then-franchisee fought Head Office tooth and nail over it. He didn't want to sell food to people on credit. Of course, it was a battle he was destined to lose, but I respected him a great deal for his stance. If you lack the cash to buy groceries, you in a heap of money troubles, friend.
(Exception granted and kudos awarded to those few of you who collect, say, Air Miles and promptly pay your balances off. I know one family--three generations worth--that puts everything they possibly can on a single credit card and has managed, in seven years, to get free airfare for four to Italy return. Twice.)
The blindness is everywhere. Ontario is seeking the ability, already granted to other Canadian jurisdictions, to sue Big Tobacco in order to recoup some of the health care costs associated with smoking. All this money would presumably be coupled with the huge sums derived from cigarette taxation. Of course, a full 40% of Canadian smokers get their fix on native reserves, where cigarettes are illegally sold untaxed and a carton goes for as little as $8. Does the government care, or indeed seem even to notice? Nope. They've gone blind, I tell you.